Washington, D.C. - All eyes were on the election results in the Alabama Senate race Tuesday night. Yet, Donna Brazile, former interim chair for the Democratic National Committee, was busy entertaining an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. with her firsthand account of what went down at the DNC during last year's presidential primary. By the end, the audience seemed convinced that the Russian hacking of the DNC only exacerbated the internal issues of an already flailing party.
Brazile, promoting her new book, "Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House," was very candid with the Press Club attendees about what transpired after she answered the call to act as DNC chair last year. To put it lightly, she found rampant incompetence, one major issue being the committee's misuse of funds.
She recounted one phone call she received from a "clerk" named Brandon four days before Election Day, informing her they had $1.5 million to spend. Although a bit late in the game, she was eager to spend the money. About an hour later, this same clerk called back to let her know their initial assessment was wrong - it was actually only $750,000 - the rest of the money would be going toward weekend cable shows.
"Who watches cable on the weekend?" she asked.
As we know from the excerpts published in Politico last month, Brazile was also not a fan of the DNC's "side agreement" with Hillary Clinton when she was still one of the crop of candidates. The joint fundraising agreement they had allowed the Clinton campaign to "control" the DNC's funds.
"This agreement prevented me from doing my job," Brazile said. "I wanted to blow the agreement up."
I asked her to clarify whether or not she believed the primary had been "rigged" for Hillary Clinton, considering there had been conflicting media reports about her characterization.
"I found out that it was not, because of course Hillary Clinton won the primary," she said.
But man was she peeved about that fundraising agreement. It "broke her heart," she said, because it gave "credence" to the idea that the DNC staff may have been working for Hillary. She goes into more detail in "Hacks."
The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.
Had Brazile known of the agreement, she said she "never" would have accepted the chair position.
It's all juicy stuff and it's all there in her book. Yet, she said she warned all the important players that the book was coming, including Secretary Clinton and Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook.
While she laid out a litany of DNC failures, Brazile did leave room for hope. If you go to their headquarters now, she said, you'd think you had just left the TSA. Clearly, they were spooked by last year's Russian cyber breach.
"I wanted to wrap the entire Democratic Party with yellow caution tape,” she said. “That’s how fearful I was.”
Since the hacking, Brazile has been more outspoken about cyber security, telling the audience to make sure their mobile devices are secure.
"Make sure that your password isn't 'password' or '1234,'" she said.
Brazile said she was also heartened by the proposals at last week's DNC unity commission meeting. Brazile also noted that the amount of resources and attention the DNC has paid to Alabama proves that the party is no longer "cherry picking" states and candidates.
Brazile said she's grateful they’ve put in place some administrative tools and will recommend an ombudsman. They've made clear that the chair will be taking more advice from the rest of the committee. Everyone should feel "comfortable" to voice their opinions at the table, she said.
Months ago, new DNC Chairman Tom Perez asked Brazile if she wanted to be on the unity commission and "for the first time in her adult life," she declined.
“I’m learning how to say no,” she said.